Alex's Reviews > Half of a Yellow Sun

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
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it was amazing
bookshelves: 2017, africa

The thing about Chimamanda Adichie is, she's so appallingly good. This is the second book I've read by her and both times I'm just, like, the whole way through, I can't believe how fucking good this book is. She's perfectly positioned to be one of the great writers of our time, with her global heritage and global stories - she was born in Nigeria and continues to split her time between there and the US. She is exactly the way novels are going. And she's so good at writing them! We're watching one of the greats create herself, and that's very exciting.

For Half of a Yellow Sun, her second book, she reaches back to her parents' lives, into the catastrophic Biafran War of the 60s. It's a war novel. Not at first - she spends about the first half introducing us to her characters: twin sisters Olanna and Kainene, their husbands the intellectual Odenigbo and the white guy Richard, and Olanna's houseboy Ugwu. The perspective shifts chapter by chapter between Ugwu, Olanna and Richard. All are interesting; Adichie pulls off the immense feat of making this part fully engaging, so you're not just waiting for the war. Of course she pulls it off, she's fucking balls.

But the war does come, and you get - oh, Adichie would love this comparison - sortof a Gone With the Wind collapse from wealth to poverty. The family is Igbo - those are the people who seceded from Nigeria, fighting against the Yoruba, the other major Nigerian ethnic group, and also the Hausa. This second half is nasty stuff, so be warned: as Adichie's father would say, agha ajoka. War is very ugly.

It's an actual epic, like they used to make in the olden days, ambitious and powerful. I still like Americanah just slightly better, but I wouldn't want to have to choose just one.

Appendix: Soundtrack
Music is important to Adichie - she's one of the rare writers who can really talk about music - and here the soundtrack is the Nigerian Highlife genre, a brand of Afropop. It's awesome and there's a compilation available on Spotify and Youtube. Sound quality is absolute shit on it; Vol. 2 is slightly better quality, but it has less Rex Lawson and it's missing this glorious cover of "Grazing in the Grass," which I only knew from this awesome psychedelic soul version. Turns out they just made up those lyrics, who knew.
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Reading Progress

March 15, 2017 – Started Reading
March 15, 2017 – Shelved
March 23, 2017 – Shelved as: 2017
March 23, 2017 – Shelved as: africa
March 23, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-5 of 5 (5 new)

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message 1: by Gill (new)

Gill Glad you enjoyed it, Alex. I agree; she will be one of the greats.


message 2: by Kathleen (new) - added it

Kathleen Moving this up my list--really must read her. Thanks for the nudge.

Fascinating about the music. But I didn't like that you referred to the old Grazing in the Grass tune as disco! It was pre-disco--psychedelic soul, baby. :-)


message 3: by Nocturnalux (new) - added it

Nocturnalux This is one those authors I've been dying to read for ages now but somehow have yet to get around to.


Alex Kathleen wrote: " I didn't like that you referred to the old Grazing in the Grass tune as disco! It was pre-disco--psychedelic soul, baby."

I was uncomfortable with this too - I mean, I know the date is wrong - but I couldn't think what else to call it. Psychedelic soul it is! Thank you!

Nocturnalux wrote: "This is one those authors I've been dying to read for ages now but somehow have yet to get around to."

Well, you have something to look forward to!


Katie Just finished and adored this book. I hadn't read the summary, so I was NOT prepared for the shift. I think that made my reading experience even stronger. Loved the characters so much. Her writing feels so effortless and intimate.


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